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“Corpse Flower”

by William Doreski

Night rain curdles in the weeds.
At three AM I’m reading
Flannery O’Connor aloud
to the cats. They deplore
the racial language but love
the texture, dialogue, and use
of local color. What color
are the storms surging past
with their various intonations?
I lean into the prose and raise
my voice to void the music
of a jazz-inflected cold front
scrubbing everything in its path.

I read to the end of the story,
then slump and turn out the light.
The sky no longer appreciates
my love of bats and owls, creatures
of indigo dusk. Before the rain
arrived, I was counting the bats,
scarcer now than ten years ago
when I’d see a dozen at a time.

The depletion of nature saddens
even the Indian Pipe aroused
in my compost heap. The favorite
flower of Emily Dickinson,
who called it corpse flower
because mortality and im-
mortality merge in its lack
of chlorophyll. I also lack
essential color, yet have thrived
for three quarters of a century
without imprinting a spoor.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.


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